Beheaded Turtleneck

(c) 2013 SoundStitchesNecklines have gone up, and necklines have gone down. Just now they’re rather down, though a little higher than scandalous. Do you have any knit turtenecks that you keep because you love the color, and yet they stay stashed away for most of the year, because it’s not t-neck weather or your want to bare a little more skin? Here’s a green, useful, easy and fun project.

Consider “beheading” the turtleneck. I’m a peach girl, not a pink girl, so that’s why I’ve held on to this apricot-colored turtleneck for so long. Recently, my husband came to me with an ivory all-silk turtleneck that was basically falling out of its shell. The neck part had no stretch left, and it wasn’t pretty. It was one sad turtle. He said, “See what you can do because as is I’m not going to wear it anymore.” It was my practice run. For his, I made a crewneck shirt. My apricot turtleneck is destined for a neck with a slight scoop.

Here’s what to do:

(c) SoundStitches 2013 Turtleneck captionsHave a look at the picture at left. (If you’re not ready to start cutting, just lay any knit shirt in front of you.) After the first several steps, you’ll have three pieces — the body of the shirt, and existing turtleneck band, and the cut-away seam allowances, with a tag if you have one. My shirt has a cotton body. The band is cotton plus Lycra, which helps stretch but you can do the same without Lycra.

Sit down with some sharp, preferably small, scissors. Insert the point of the scissors just under the top stitching of the body of the shirt. Carefully cut the turtleneck and the bulky seams away in a circle (in other words, don’t cut into the circle, because later you will be able to reinstall that circle as is).

Determine the new neckline. The resulting shirt body will likely still fall too high on your neck in front. Use a disappearing marker to mark while wearing the shirt. There are no fast rules, but I would not recommend cutting away more than a half an inch down in front, and you need cut off only a bit in the back and sides. Remember that the original neck band will stretch some, but there are limits to how much bigger a circumference it will wrap around.Take off the shirt, true your marker lines, and cut away.

Examine your cut-off turtleneck. Similar to your first move with the body piece, you’ll cut away all the old bulky seams associated with the neckband. Is the current fold looking worn? Then use the big band needed for a turtleneck to make a narrower fold for a t-shirt. Two and a half inches is a good new band height, regardless of whether you cut it higher (using the existing band) or lower if using the existing fold, Why 2.5 inches? A standard crewneck or scoop neck band is one inch or less — check your closet. Times two, that’s two inches. Then, you need seam allowances, say .25 inches each (.25 x 2 = .5 inches). I’ve used these numbers for a basic sewer, but it all depends on your ability to make a very narrow seam allowance with a sewing machine. You can also go a little less high such as 2.25 inches — just make sure to calculate everything times two because of the folds. (On another note, many sewers will want to use a serger, but I recommend the first seam in a circle to be made with a basting stitch, then try it on to ensure that it fits and looks good before using the serger.)

What’s next? Pinning and sewing in the round. Most basic sewing books discuss how to apply a separate neck or waistband in a circle. Here are the basics: Assume that your old neckband tube seam will again be at the back. Mark the center back on the body of the t-shirt with a disappearing marker. Fold the hold band in half and mark its opposite. Unfold and then refold so that you have four “quarter marks” around the neckline. Now pin right sides together, starting by matching the center back seam of neckband to the center back of the t-shirt body. Pin its opposite mark — that’s the center front of the top. You’ll feel some resistance now. Continue pinning. You’ll want pins at the side marks, and a few other pins. Now lay on the sewing machine, and set to a longest (basting) straight stitch on your machine. Using the seam allowances you used for the neck height math, stitch slowly around. This effort requires you to stretch the neckline, but you’ll soon see this is fairly easy. Remove pins right before you arrive at them. No need to backstitch — just sew slightly past your starting mark. Now try it on — does it lie against the neck nicely? If you had uneven seam allowances, try basting again, and later remove your first mistaken lines. See how nicely the new neckline can lie against your skin? Thinking of which jewelry to wear with this top already? 🙂

Once you’re happy with the neckline, finish with either of these two methods: 1. With sewing machine, a medium length zigzag stitch with very little “zag,” which will allow stretch but still read as a straight stitch. Often .5 or 1.0 width on the zigzag will do. In most cases, just leave on the seam allowance. 2. With serger, simply go around trimming off excess seam allowances.

Enjoy the new top and accompanying jewelry show-off!

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